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by Alan Hargreaves

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Entries in competition (4)


The Ugly Reality Behind Innovation

Your job is to undermine the free market

Odd, isn’t it? Business supports the idea of free competition but spends most of its time trying to undermine it.

That’s the job. Call it creative destruction, innovation or disruption – the principle is still the same. Somehow, you have to find a way of making the playing field uneven.

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Mental toughness and business performance

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What can we learn from sports psychology?

My daughter is a showjumper. She recently competed in a major event at an international venue. She was up against a huge field of Olympic riders on high-class horses bred specifically for the sport. It was a major step up for her. There was no shortage of stress ahead of the day.

Stress turns up in any competitive situation and it’s easy to be distracted by factors that work against your performance. They preoccupy your consciousness, crowding out the ability to focus on the things that matter. It takes a particular mental toughness to let go of the things you can’t control and stay on the things you can master.

Sports psychologist at Condor Performance, Gareth Mole, defines mental toughness as not being distracted by the things over which you have no absolute control. Top performers, he says, focus on the things they can guarantee and leave aside the things that, at best, they can only influence.

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Retail therapy and management

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Window shopping for business strategies

The business landscape is littered with disasters based on “expansion by acquisition”. What seemed like a great idea to combine two small firms to make a much bigger one often leads to a smaller one, or to none at all.

Sometimes it’s spectacular. America Online and Time Warner merged at the turn of the millennium. In 2003, they wrote down the value of their combined entity by US$99 billion. Small businesses don’t get it right either. When the “” boom ended, literally thousands of small firms went bust after basing their strategy on rolling up small enterprises with rough synergies.

Yet you only have to look around to notice that many survivors are combined entities. Virtually every major bank has grown through acquisition. Most law firms or accounting practices I knew in my youth now go under the name of some merged entity. What are the drivers behind this growth model? There are three:

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To overtake competitors, overtake yourself

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Why your personal best is better

Competitor analysis is a great way to assess where you stand in the marketplace. If you methodically work through the key strengths of your competitors, it will soon become apparent where you do well and where you could do better. It’s a useful process; one that should be ongoing, not just a one-off project.

But there’s a danger here. If you focus only what the others are doing better than you, it is easy to lose sight of what you do well. It is an axiom in life that some people do some things better than you. Conversely, you do some things better than others.

In business it is no different. Competitive advantage comes from all sorts of sources. It might be location, time in the market, technology, training, key personalities or something special to them, or you.

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